With Mockingjay's rebellious spirit swooping into cinemas on November 21, now seems as good a time as any to delve into the wealth of reviews from critics to try and distill the spirit of the movie before we shell out for tickets.
So, I've trawled the internet so you don't have to and sifted through what the critics have to say about [The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1](movie:446261).
Fear not my dear fans, the general consensus is that movies are very much still on fire! Hurrah!
Politics Get Interesting!
Katniss' transformation from arena based badass to the leader of a rebellion is one of the most lauded aspects of the movie according to many critics.
Kevin Harley at Total Film waxed poetic about how a swift launch into the political rebellion gave this installment the critical bite of [The Hunger Games](movie:44466). He wrote:
If Gary Ross’s first ‘Hunger Games’ flick benefitted from lunging fast into the arena, ‘Catching Fire’ repeated the trick and proved it stood repeating. Now that Katniss Everdeen’s revolt at ‘Fire’s climax has pushed the future districts into a climate of unrest, countered by state oppression, there are no games to play but political ones. This time, it’s war? Yes, but for unwary viewers expecting the fun stuff of bonkers baboons terrorising teenagers it could just be a bore
While there are no baboons, the political aspect was also earning rave reviews from Cath Clarke of Time Out magazine. She explained that:
The politics of Mockingjay are as intensely gripping as the games in the earlier films -- and more deadly.
Jennifer Lawrence Makes the Movie
The name on every critics' lips was 'Jennifer Lawrence.' Obviously being the beloved main character helps things along for the star, but the praise of her acting in the movie is pretty much universal and a choir of critics singing from the same hymn sheet is nothing to be sniffed at.
David Edelsten of New York magazine put it simply and succinctly when he wrote that:
Lawrence's instincts are so smart that she never goes even a shade overboard. She's a hell of an actress.
Whereas, James Rocchi of About.com used more floral language to describe how Lawrence managed to seamlessly embody all of Katniss' most noble and human qualities. He explained that:
It is hard to imagine another young actress who could have played this series’ central part as well as Ms. Lawrence, and the good news is that we don’t have to. Lawrence is exemplary, and we believe her utterly, no matter how strange or soap-operatic the world around her is. Katniss’ simple innocent desires in a dangerous time– that her friends might live, that her family might live, that she might live — are not in fact ‘simple’ or ‘innocent’ at all. They are heroic, and they are all the more heroic because of their plain-spoken everyday humanity.
While Helen O'Hara of Empire magazine's review was often negative in tone (she described the movie as "more treading water than catching fire," even she had time to praise Lawrence by saying that:
Lawrence makes an exceptionally charismatic heroine
A Movie With Depth
Another recurring theme in the reviews are praises for this blockbusters 'heart' and 'depth.' Perhaps many lofty critics are almost surprised that a young adult romp is capable of conveying serious themes and earnest emotion, but it seems like Mockingjay Part 1 certainly did.
According to Sophie Monks Kaufman of Little White Lies:
The power of emotions in filmmaking is at the heart of this beautifully constructed and self-aware blockbuster
Andy Lea of Daily Star wrote that the movie is:
Stylish, gripping and surprisingly thoughtful
But, it is Roth Coronet of IGN Movies who gives the movie the most in-depth praise for its intelligent explorations of what it really means to be a hero by writing:
Mockingjay is, of course, fundamentally meant to be an engaging piece of entertainment... However, it's also a story in which the protagonist can be looked at as not just an unlikely hero, but a deconstruction of what a hero is or is meant to be
Are Two Parts Really Better Than One?
It's a mixed bag when it comes to touch question of whether Mockingjay really needed to be split into two parts.
James Mottram of The List is by far the most forgiving about the choice to break the movie in two... In fact, he absolutely loves it! The critic wrote:
Mockingjay merits the split - it perhaps even gives some balance and rhythm to a story that might've felt rushed were the events crammed into a single movie
Black Howard of 2UE That Movie Show hit middle ground by simply stating the obvious that:
In its current form as Mockingjay Part 1, it's half of one
Of course, others thought that the split destroyed the potential pace of the movie.
Todd McCarthey of The Hollywood Reporter really went in for the kill by writing that:
Like an overgrown and bloated trailer for a film yet to come, Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 spreads perhaps 45 minutes of dramatic material across two far-too-leisurely hours
Perhaps the most playful and concise summary comes from Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph who simply said Mockingjay is, in his humble opinion:
All queue, no roller-coaster.
The Final Verdict
I will leave Eric Eisenberg of CinemaBlend to leave this final verdict on this movie. In his wise words:
It’s very likely that Francis Lawrence’s ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1′ is not the movie that you’re expecting. Moving beyond the structure that helped make the first two films in the series so successful – seeing star Katniss Everdeen forced to compete in a deadly competition that pits her against her peers in an arena setting – the new sequel instead takes the franchise themes of revolution and resistance to the next level, taking its characters to war. Rather than struggling with this massive shift, however, the new film simply makes the dystopian world that much more fascinating and exciting, and is ultimately another very successful chapter in the blockbuster series